The Watchmakers Art

It’s always been fascinating to me the extraordinarily different and diverse media surfaces upon which people will add their personal artistic talents. The street artist for example
directly on the pavement or sidewalk, the graffiti merchant to walls, under bridge supports, on the side of a bridge span in the centre over the river and even on the
sides of skyscrapers. The more conventional manage their stuff to paper, wood, canvas, metal, ceilings mural walls – in fact almost any surface that happens to be blank!
Even at bottom of swimming pools and cars don’t escape their attention and I’ve even seen stuff on grass! (maybe I should re-phrase that last statement!)

But there’s a specialist group of Artists who just happen to have a skill set that transcends them all and will be immortalized perhaps for all Time.

Yes this is  “Dial Art” –

Van Cleef & Arpels - California Landscapes (inspired)

Van Cleef & Arpels – California Landscapes (inspired)

Where the very best of the world’s top watchmakers create not only masterpieces to adorn the wrists of men and women, but engrave, paint and enamel some fantastic Art
to the face of your watch.
And they have the benefit of the fact, that the wearer or viewer, doesn’t walk past and no longer sees that nice picture on the wall, but looks directly at that art
perhaps many, many times a day, something few artists can manage.

Here are just a few of the amazing creations and for no other reason, but an appreciation of their collective skills.

Cartier - enamelling technique called grisaille of an Andalusian horse

Cartier – enamelling technique called grisaille of an Andalusian horse

Jaquet Droz

Jaquet Droz

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From the gemstone mosaic horse of the Cartier Cartier Santos-Dumont in white gold to champlevé enamelling, hand Gilloche, added diamonds. Mother of Pearl engraving and goodness knows what other incredibly difficult technical art feats, they are quite amazing.  A far cry from my daily beater I can honestly say – though . . . . it has to be said that within the limitations of my own small budget it’s just possible that I can acquire an equally (well not quite equal) piece of immortalized Art work on my wrist too.

Ta Da!   I give you my personal favourit Classic of all –

Mickey O'Clock

Mickey O’Clock Watch – Mickey Mouse in red – Model OCD02.

And be honest – there’s not too many folks on the planet who don’t know who this is – Oh Yes!    OK – I’m sorry and no disrespect intended – but I’m retired (did I say?) 😉

Affordable Cartier

When most folk mention Cartier, they think that this is a product that many really cannot afford and perhaps out of reach price-wise.
But today and certainly in the world of “pre-owned” watches, this certainly is not the case.  Take the watch shown below as an example –

“Must-de-Cartier” Quartz, Vermeil (gold on silver) dress watch.

A lovely little watch in pretty much pristine condition and hardly worn at all.

This is the round cased Vermeil version (Vermeil = gold on silver) and in this case we’re talking 20 microns of 18k gold on a solid Silver (925) case.  This one as said is pre-owned and in very very good condition and whilst you can see these pre-owned models around, the prices asked vary anywhere from around £750 up to around £1200 depending on condition.  However there are also watch auctions and at these you can often pick up a real bargain – simply look carefully at the condition and use your common sense.

Cartier Strap and signed deployment clasp

This little gem for example cost me less than £350 and is complete with the original Cartier authentic Caiman strap with a fitted signed Cartier deployment clasp – so this is a bonus.
So as said, this is the round cased Vermeil (gold on silver) cased “Must-de-Cartier” Swiss Quartz dress watch.
It has a midi sized 32mm case diameter including the Cartier blue sapphire cabochon crown and very slim at 5mm depth. White patterned dial with the classic Cartier blue steel hour and minute hands giving excellent contrast, gilt Arabic numerals on the even numbers and markers on the odds, bordered by a minute track.  The glass is a sapphire crystal and the case has central “T” lugs supporting the strap screws and strap.

At 5mm depth – a very slim neat watch

Case back details give watch data such as model reference number, watch series number, the gold micron figure, a 925 Sterling Silver mark, Vermeil and Swiss made.

Quite small I suppose these days, but it is an excellent unisex size and for me with a smallish 170mm wrist, it is perfect as a dress watch.  Equally my wife on occasion can wear it too and it looks great on her as well.

Affordable classic Cartier design.

Now OK I know it’s not the most expensive Cartier (goodness these can really set you back) – but it IS a genuine Cartier, it is a decent 20 microns of 18ct Gold plate and it IS a solid Silver case (stamped 925), it’s Swiss made and allows you at VERY reasonable cost to “join the club” – a Cartier owner!

Now that can’t be bad – can it?

It’s quite possible that once you have the taste for the classic (here it is the Cartier of course) you just might start looking for more bargain pre-owned ones – maybe that “tank” version that epitomize the Cartier style more than any other and perhaps that bit more recognizable too.

And at these prices IF you can get them – it’s also lot’s of fun!

Strapped Santos

Recently I acquired via family sources, this nice little Quartz Cartier watch which has been through the wars a bit and I know, I know it should have a bracelet.  However the one fitted had been partly torn off in an accident, badly damaged and beyond repair.  Luckily the lugs of the watch were relatively unscathed with only minor damage and some small marks to the case.

This model is a Santos Steel & Gold W20060D6 quartz version I believe which was re-issued probably as a “homage” to the original 1904 model.  Roman numerals with blue steel sword shaped hands and with a date window @6.  The movement is a Swiss Quartz Calibre 687 and running perfectly once I fitted a new battery.  A nice neat size of watch too with a square face of 29mm x 29mm actually which suits me very well.

So what to do?  Either source a Cartier bracelet which would be very expensive or find an alternative.
The answer was easy for me as I’ve always disliked the Santos bracelet (I actually I don’t like many Cartier bracelets) – and the Santos I’d owned myself some years ago used to hurt my wrist as it was too sharp and after 12 months of  a raw wrist I sold it on.

Now to replace with an alternative bracelet is almost  impossible unless specially made as the bracelet fitting is very tricky.  The fixing pin is hard against the case body, very unusual and fits into a little recess on the very end of the bracelet.

I thought OK – if I’m going to keep the watch it has to have a strap?  Well this initially looked a little difficult owing to the fixing problem – the bracelet securing pin holes in the lugs were far, far too close to the case.  The existing pins were unusable being badly distorted owing to the damage and even if they had been OK they were too thick to use, as even bent it would not have been possible to fit a strap between them and the case body.

I solved the problem quite easily in the end by using a much thinner steel wire (a paper clip actually) than the original pins and cut them at a length to slightly protrude from the lug holes at either side.  I then bent the wire outwards from the case between the lugs enough to allow an open ended strap to slide between the wire and the case.  This bending of the pin effectively shortened the pin by pulling the pin ends inwards slightly, thus making them fit just inside the holes without protruding which was perfect.  My open ended strap then managed to fit with a bit of juggling and this is the result.  The strap is a great high quality camel grain leather one I found at Watchworx.

As said I never like the look of Cartier bracelets generally and personally think the watches look far better with a strap. Which is why I prefer more recent Cartier watches like the Santos 2007 for example as they are proper strap watches, having the strap fixing holes in the correct place.  However I have to admit a sneaking preference for this older model with it’s classic style blued steel sword hands rather than the infill hands of the newer ones.

So all in all I’m pretty pleased and now have a colorful little dress watch, albeit a bit of a “homer” if being critical and one that suits me quite nicely.  A good day all round!

Oh just a point about lugs and bracelets etc.

These days I always check the case construction of any watch I’m interested in to see if it can possibly be fitted with a standard strap.  It is noticeable that many bracelet models have the cases modified in some way and profiled for the particular bracelet or strap and often with oddly shaped lug fixings that make it impossible to change.

Their are literally hundreds of watch styles and models out there that have really quite unique straps or bracelets.  All sorts of strap or bracelet styles, maybe rubber or resin or composites of some kind and whilst they may look great and perhaps compliment the watch – what happens if they wear out or break? (rubber ones used to go brittle and break on me after about a year).  If the model is an older model it can be well nigh impossible to get an original replacement and owing to that odd case/lug arrangement it’s pretty  impossible to get any kind of replacement at all!
Couple this with the fact that many watches in the market place may have little or no after sales support, the watch ends up effectively useless as no OEM bracelet will actually be available anyway.

I don’t have any of the “sport” watches with those sort of  “built-in composite straps” as I find there is simply no way to replace the strap nor get any kind of replacement at all.  To me this is where “fashion” more often than not does away with “function” completely and is a non starter.

So I check the case/lug construction and make sure that the case has what I regard as a standard lug arrangement.  Just sometimes though you do manage to find the odd watch that manages to provide form and function.  There are quite a few around of course which co-incidentally leads me nicely to the fact that my next post  features just such a watch.
This one perhaps unusually has up to 3 different versions and offered with the choice of bracelet, rubber or leather, which seems to me to be the most wonderfully enlightened and sensible idea.

Standard lugs you see – so important.